Many of us look to January with a goal of eating healthier, working out more and, hopefully, losing a few pounds so our pants aren't so tight. What we may be overlooking is the importance of reducing stress and getting enough sleep. Those two things may be the key to a healthier you this year.
In 2013, about 30 percent of Americans said they slept six hours or less each night, but that number rose to 33 percent by 2017, researchers found.
Lead study author Jennifer Ailshire, an assistant professor of gerontology and sociology at the University of Southern California, said that many factors could account for this trend.
"If you talk to people, the things you hear most often are economic insecurity and economic anxiety," she wrote in the study. "People are staying up worrying about things."
Even people who are working feel that they are working longer and harder for less or that their jobs aren't secure, Ailshire said. Now, with the government shutdown, that number could increase even more.
People are glued to their cellphones, reading news and Twitter and Facebook and seeing things fall apart around the world, via devices right in their hands, Ailshire noted.
Sleep experts recommend that most adults get seven to eight hours of good-quality sleep each night.
Not getting enough sleep is tied to increased risk for obesity, decreased mental functioning, dementia, heart disease and diabetes. In addition, getting too little sleep can increase the risk of car crashes, accidents at work and troubled social relationships, Ailshire wrote.
When you're tired or stressed, you tend to make poor food decisions, as it's easier to justify grabbing junk food and giving in to high-calorie foods. The opposite happens when we get enough sleep; we're thinking clearly and making good decisions when it comes to eating healthy.
For the study, the researchers collected data on nearly 400,000 adults, ages 18 to 84, who took part in the U.S. National Health Interview Survey. Participants were asked how many hours they slept each night. The findings were published online recently in the journal Sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation offers the following tips for getting a good night's sleep:
—Make your bedroom comfortable.
—Set a regular sleep time.
—Keep the bedroom dark and cool.
—Keep smartphones, tablets and TVs out of the bedroom.
The bottom line: to eat healthier and lose weight, get enough sleep to feel well rested so you make good decisions.
Q and A
Q: I've heard that eating too late at night, like after 8 o'clock, could contribute to weight gain. Is there any truth to this?
A: Although long a popular notion, there is now some research (human and animal) that suggests the timing of meals could be important for body weight control and maintenance of overall health. While there is no hard and fast cutoff at 8 p.m., intervention studies have found that people who eat most of their calories earlier rather than later in the day — or who eat a heavier breakfast rather than a heavier dinner — were better able to manage their body weight, despite similar reductions in caloric intake. During the day, our bodies' hormones and overall metabolic processes are better prepared to handle the food we consume than later in the evening, when our so-called body clock is preparing for rest. Although this body clock may vary slightly from person to person, avoiding eating after 8 p.m. is a good way to ensure that you eat before your metabolism begins to wind down for the night. Other factors such as number of calories eaten, duration of sleep, individuals' weight history and genetics also play a role in weight gain, weight loss and weight regain. So, although meal timing is important, it is only one of many factors to consider.
Information courtesy of Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.
Our household is feeling a bit overserved these days with all the festivities that November and December bring. This recipe for cranberry-almond broccoli salad from Cooking Light is a great way to boost your antioxidants and get started eating healthy again.
CRANBERRY-ALMOND BROCCOLI SALAD
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup canola mayonnaise
3 tablespoons reduced-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets (about 1 bunch)
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 cup reduced-sugar dried cranberries
4 center-cut bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
Soak red onion in cold water for 5 minutes and drain. Combine mayonnaise and next 5 ingredients (through pepper), stirring well with a whisk. Stir in red onion, broccoli and remaining ingredients. Cover and chill 1 hour before serving. Serves 8 (serving size about 1/2 cup).
Per serving: 104 calories, 4 grams protein, 11 grams carbohydrate, 5.9 grams fat, 4 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams fiber, 5 grams sugars (4 added), 224 milligrams sodium.
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with Hy-Vee in Springfield, Illinois, and a spokesperson for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.